By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Strafford, Mo. — Drew Stoll’s highlight reel probably won’t be a big hit in Fair Grove this week.
The Strafford senior running back scored three touchdowns — a run, a catch and an interception — to help propel the Indians to a convincing 34-6 victory.
Fair Grove’s lone touchdown was the first on the board.
The Eagles took control on the opening series with a 13-play, 55-yard drive setting up Elijah Young’s five-yard plunge into the end zone.
Strafford answered quickly on its second possession, with Stoll accounting for 54 of the team’s 73 yards and scoring on an 18-yard run to tie the game.
Midway through the quarter, Stoll scored again, this time on a 39-yard pass from quarterback Kensen White to put the Indians up 12-6.
While fans had to wait until the fourth quarter for the hat trick, Strafford’s final score of the game was easily the most electrifying of the evening.
With Fair Grove just outside the red zone, Kensinger tried to float a pass near the goal line.
Stoll jumped the route, intercepted the pass and raced 98 yards to the other end zone.
“I knew they were going to pass,” Stoll said. “I just sat back, saw the ball, jumped up, got it and ran as hard as I could … I got some good blocks there.”
In addition to the defensive score, Stoll finished the game with 121 combined rushing and receiving yards. Kensen White tallied 12-17 for 109 yards passing.
After the game, Strafford head coach Tim Hester praised Stoll’s resilient nature in coming back from injury.
“[Stoll] came back from a baseball injury last year,” Hester said. “He didn’t do anything all summer; no lifting and no contact. I knew this process was going to be long for him and told him by game three or four that you might be hitting all strides. Stockton is where we saw, when he just flat ran over linebackers, you could see him start getting in condition.”
The one-man scoring display was certainly impressive; however, it paled in comparison to the Indians’ defensive effort.
Fair Grove’s high-octane offense flew into week six averaging nearly 38 points per game.
On Friday, the Eagles were held to a mere 231 yards and six points.
Fair Grove quarterback Jayden Kensinger spent most of the evening under siege from Strafford’s pressure, finishing 13-33 with 143 yards passing. Noah Sandridge led Fair Grove with 23 carries for 84 yards, and Isaac Mauldin hauled in five passes for 62 yards.
Strafford’s dominant line play was keyed off the edges, according to Hester.
“We practiced the last two weeks with our ends trying to get around,” Hester said. “We time it, and we watch on film how long it takes him to pass the ball. So, we’ve just been working on our times and working clock, trying to get around the corners until we got better at it. Eventually, these last couple days, we really got good at it.”
Good, in this case, accounted for 18 hurried incompletions, three sacks and a pair of pick-six interceptions — one from Stoll and another from junior Wyatt Maples.
Another key to holding Fair Grove’s attack in check, according to Hester, was keeping everything in front of defenders to prevent the deep, game-breaking plays.
“As long as [Kensinger] didn’t get deep, we didn’t care what was caught in the middle or on the outside,” Hester said. “We just watched that quick throw, the slant and the skinny post, and made sure we got in those areas.”
Film study certainly played a big role in defending Fair Grove’s bread-and-butter passing routes.
Maples’ first-half score, a 35-yard interception return, was the result of a trend discovered in the film room.
“I saw it on film when they were in quads,” Maples said. “They run that bubble a lot, and I heard Coach say something about it, I read it and just got a hold of it.”
Fair Grove head coach Bill Voorhis, disappointed with the loss, was quick to give credit to Strafford’s defensive scheme and execution.
“I was really impressed with the way their defensive line played all night,” Voorhis said. “I didn’t see that type of explosion and effort on tape every time, but tonight those kids played at another level.”
While the Eagles now find themselves a game back in the conference standings, Voorhis believes the game, particularly the final moments, might have contained some invaluable team-building lessons.”
“We had some adversity come from our own sideline there towards the end,” Voorhis said. “To see our kids rally together … it calmed me down, and they calmed each other down. That moment may lead us to more important things down the road.
Next week, Strafford (4-2) travels to Skyline, while Fair Grove (4-2) hosts Marionville.
Strafford – 34, Fair Grove – 6
Strafford 0 20 7 7 — 34
Fair Grove 6 0 0 0 — 6
First quarter scoring
Fair Groive – Elijah Young 5-yard TD rush (PAT no good)
Second quarter scoring
Strafford – Drew Stoll 18-yard TD rush (PAT no good)
Strafford – Kensen White 39-yard TD pass to Stoll (2-point conversion failed)
Strafford – Wyatt Maples 35-yard INT return TD (White to Trayson Lawler pass)
Third quarter scoring
Strafford – White 26-yard TD rush (Lukas Goodman kick)
Fourth quarter scoring
Strafford – Stoll 98-yard INT return TD (Goodman kick)